photo by Doron Gild
words and interview by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Doron Gild
Washington D.C. based band Le Loup members are truly children of the internet age. Founder, Sam Simkoff posted an advertisement one day on Craigslist looking for band mates and Le Loup was born. Christian Ervin (computer, guitar), Mike Ferguson (guitar, amp, vocals), Nicole Keenan (keyboards, French horn, vocals), Dan Ryan (bass, percussion, vocals), Robert Salm (drums, percussion, vocals), May Tabol (guitar, vocals), and Jim Thomson (guitar, amp, vocals) have been enjoying the ride. Their debut LP, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennium General Assembly has been causing quite a stir within the music community. Courted by Sub Pop at only their second live performance they recently signed with sister label, Hardly Art. Armed with four guitars, layered lyrics and seven musicians playing and signing their voices out Le Loup are one of the most exciting young acts to keep an eye out for during CMJ.
Sheryl Witlen discussed D.C. music scene, the influence of the Internet, and the experiences they’ve had as a new band.
Sheryl: Coming together via Craigslist the way you did, do you have a greater appreciation for the online community?
Robbie: Don’t fight it. I love the internet.
Chris: It’s been working so well so far.
Dan: Obviously everything we’ve done has come through the internet, with Myspace and then the blogs have helped us a lot and none of that was there five-ten years ago.
Sam: It has opened up the playing field for any band that has anything to listen to and that is fantastic. It has lowered the barriers into entering the music industry.
Dan: I think that it is nice with the Bloggers because for better or worse they are reviewing it because they want to and not because they are part of some bigger, well-oiled machine that they have to get these reviews out there by a deadline and they get these albums that they don’t necessarily know or want to listen to. With the people who have been reviewing us it is because it it’s crossed their path and they have taken some liking to it.
Sheryl: Outside of the internet community it is becoming increasingly hard to diverse Radio, has this effected you with the release of this album and reaching a more broad audience?
Sam: We’ve had very little to do with this. I think that lies more in the hands of the excellent people at Hardly Art. Every once and a while we get an alert of somewhere it is being played and it is always a pleasant surprise. We were never expecting to get a lot of airplay on any of the big radio stations.
Robbie: No ClearChannel.We don’t sound like Clearchannel.
Sam: No we certainly don’t. I’ve actually been contacted by people in Portugal that have played our record.
Jim: And Irish radio.
May: We are huge in Portugal.
Sheryl: How do you discover new music?
Nicole: I actually listen to you guys.
Sam: I have more music savvy sort of friends. I haven’t downloaded anything for free for years now. To be perfectly honest I am too lazy to find some sort of program for it online. I’ve resorted to buying things on Itunes.
Robbie: I hear a lot of good music recommendations just from people in this band. When we are on the road there are seven of us stuck in a van and we can just pass around and share music.
Sheryl: You recently opened a few dates for Andrew Bird. How was that experience?
Christian: You know May recently played with Andrew Bird. She played on stage with him.
Sheryl: Oh wow- so what was that like?
Nicole: It was probably the best minute of my life.
Robbie: It was like a solid two minutes. Didn’t he re-start the loop so you got a solid two minutes?
Sam: He’s just a sweet guy.
Nicole: He came up to me about an hour before our set and asked if I wanted to play the french horn for a bit of his song.
Robbie: I think she squeaked out a yes.
Christian: Andrew Birds’ crowd was amazing to us. They are the nicest crowd in all of the music world. And they taught us a lot too.
Dan: After our first set we were all rushing to unload our crew, like come ‘on it’s a dive bar we have to get out and his manager stepped in and told us to relax and enjoy the moment.
Sam: He was incredibly nice.
Jim: He saved us a few times. He threw down for us.
Sheryl: Being such a young band still- do you have a lot of moments where you are trying to find your footing on stage?
Sam: On stage it is fine. On stage we pretty much know what to do. Behind the scenes and management wise and on tour we are all learning as we go. Stage is the easy part. Playing is the easy part.
Mike: Merch has been such a case study. You have to play a show and run a little store all at the same time.
Dan: I have to learn Quickbooks? I now know Quickbooks.
Robert: I think it was Andrew Birds’ manager actually suggested that we charge people for shirts and we were like, ‘That’s an AWESOME idea.’
Nicole: We are a team environment.
Sheryl: Do you have plans to stay in DC?
Sam: Yeah, more or less. I just moved to Baltimore, but we are still gonna meet up in DC.
May: That environment has been so good to us and we have met a ton of people we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Dan: We have played with such great local artists like Jukebox the Ghost and I love them
May: And These United States.
Sam: There is such an incentive to stay in DC because the music scene and the people who function there are so receptive to any new music that comes along. New York is awesome, but it is so hard to make it here. The people are so weathered and you have to be the cream of the crop or else nobody hears you.
Nicole: Whereas in DC it is more navigational.
Sam: It’s more laid back and there is less pressure and you get some great talent. Everybody we’ve played with has been incredibly supportive.
Sheryl: I wanted to ask you a few questions about James Hampton (in reference to the title of his album). He was sort of this recluse artist and you broke him out of that mold, would you describe yourself in the same way?
Sam: I’ve got to be careful with that because I don’t want to compare myself to James Hampton. Honestly, the first thing i noticed about his work was that it was so visually arresting that i had to write something about it. Especially visually. It was very inspiring. He worked on this for literally 14 or 15 years alone with no expectation of fame. He was looking to start his own church i guess but he never drew it out into the public. Just a very introverted person out on a holy personal crusade. The love that he poured into it and did not expect anything on a worldly level in return. That struck me on an emotional level. I am not saying i should be recognized in the same he was. Honestly when i made the songs i wasn’t expecting them to go anywhere. At the risk of sounding stupid I was kind of doing it for myself.
Sheryl: And you were even tentative about putting it out there at first?
Sam: Not so much tentative as just a lack of interest of having it out there. I placed it up on Myspace as a whim. Everything that followed was more so of a pleasant after thought.
Sheryl: I wonder what he would have thought having known that people have seen it. I mean no one has cracked Hamptons code, especially twenty years later.
Sam: I wonder because people see it as a work of art and I don’t know whether he did it to be seen as a work of art or whether it was to have this spiritual function and a religious function behind it.
Sheryl: Isn’t that always the intention of creating art you do it for yourself but you also want other people somehow to see it and still want it to be about yourself and for yourself?
Sam: That is something you don’t dare to expect. It’s something you sort of fantasize about within the confines of your room as a fifteen year old and then plan for something else. In my case I didn’t plan for anything else, or this for that matter, I sort of just went with the flow. But there is obviously that expectation- that hope that someone would recognize my songs as something valid.
Sheryl: Did you see this exhibit before, during or after your song writing process?
Sam: Somewhere in the middle.